Republicans call for making it harder to remove Speaker after McCarthy ouster

A growing chorus of Republicans are demanding the House change or get rid of the rule that paved the way for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) ouster this week.

McCarthy was removed from the top spot in a 216-210 vote on what’s known as a “motion to vacate,” making him the first Speaker ever to be ousted by the House. All House Democrats and eight Republicans voted to remove the Speaker’s gavel from the California Republican.

As part of the dramatic, 15-ballot election that handed McCarthy the gavel in January, the former Speaker agreed to lower the threshold to force a vote on a motion to vacate from five to one — which allowed Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) to single-handedly call for the vote this week.

Now, Republicans furious at the mutiny want to make sure that can’t happen again.

Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.) said Wednesday he will withhold support for a new Speaker candidate until the motion to vacate is reformed.

“I’m not supporting ANYONE for Speaker until there is a commitment to reform the Motion to Vacate,” Gimenez said in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “The coup against Speaker McCarthy was DESPICABLE & must never happen again. No one can govern effectively while being threatened by fringe hostage lawmakers.”

Calling the motion to vacate a “toddler security blanket,” Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) said the cost for his vote for Speaker is a change to the rule.

“Apparently the motion to vacate is now a toddler security blanket. Well, we’re grown up, we need to take it away,” Armstrong said Tuesday on CNBC.

Armstrong told The Hill he is “flexible” on what the change to the rule would look like.

“My answer is, I want to know how the next Speaker is going to ensure what happened yesterday never happens again,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong’s comments echo those from the Main Street Caucus, a prominent House GOP caucus of more than five dozen members, which said the current House rules “will keep a chokehold” on the lower chamber.

“The ability for one person to vacate the Speaker of the House will keep a chokehold on this body through 2024,” the group wrote in a statement Wednesday morning. “Personal politics should never again be used to trump the will of 96 percent of House conservatives. Any candidate for Speaker must explain to us how what happened on Tuesday will never happen again.”

The 96 percent is in reference to McCarthy’s comments Tuesday night, where he pointed out 4 percent of the Republican conference can join Democrats and “dictate who can be the Republican Speaker.”

Centrist Republican Rep. Mike Lawler (N.Y.) indicated a change to the process needs to be made, though he did not detail exactly what that might include.

“No Speaker should have this proverbial gun to their head when trying to do the right thing by the American people, especially in a divided government,” Lawler told reporters Wednesday. “There’s a reality that some folks just don’t seem to grasp and I think moving forward, there needs to be change.”

Even Senate leaders are weighing in on the issue, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who called on the next Speaker to get rid of the motion to vacate, warning the rule will make the next Speaker’s job “impossible.”

McConnell told reporters Wednesday that he didn’t have much advice to give House GOP lawmakers, but that they should give the next Speaker more job security.

“I hope whoever the next Speaker is gets rid of the motion to vacate,” he said.

The House is tasked with making its own rules, which are largely based on “Jefferson’s Manual,” which the House adopted in 1837 as its first set of rules. While a lot of the contents have remained the same throughout the years, the House has the ability to change the rules with a majority vote.

It wasn’t immediately clear when such a rules vote could take place or if it could get enough support to pass.  

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, a motion to vacate the Speakership was made on only two occasions, neither of which were successful. In 1910, the House voted on whether to remove then-Speaker John Cannon, who secured enough votes to keep the gavel.

In 2015, then-Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) field a motion to oust then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), which was referred to committee and never received a vote.

Emily Brooks and Alexander Bolton contributed.

Tags Carlos Gimenez house House GOP house of representatives House Republican Kelly Armstrong Kevin McCarthy Mark Meadows Michael Lawler Mitch McConnell